Monthly Archives: January 2017

Will Power – Muscle or Myth

As some of you may recall from last blog that I just finished a MasterCleanse detox. It’s a liquid diet. You don’t eat any solid foods at all. The minimum you can do it for is 10 days and I did it for 15 days last year. And this year I decided to push my limits and do it for 20 days. When I discuss this with others their first reaction is “What, Amazing Self Control”, “You have a lot of will power”. I thought I will dedicate this blog to my favorite friend – Will Power.

The dictionary meaning of Will Power is “control exerted to do something or restrain impulses” If you are planning to do yoga everyday or stop eating chocolates – will power is your best friend.

First thing about Will Power is that you can build it – it’s not something that is genetic or hereditary. You can work on it like meditation really! In India, when I was growing up the only way to ace exams was to memorize textbooks. Teachers would give you answers and you had to regurgitate them in the exam papers. I generally didn’t care much for studies so I didn’t even give memorizing a shot.

When I was in Delhi one of my close friends was trying to memorize a answer to a Hiroshima/Nagasaki question and she asked for my help. And in helping her I ended up memorizing the answer, and not just that I could repeat it in a super fast manner as well. This was a new skill that I had discovered and it got me excited. This did not encourage me to study though.

It wasn’t until I was in Nagpur that I was driven to excel and ultimately to memorize. And I still remember how I started – I would write down every answer thrice for almost 2-3 days [Yes, I am extremist and obsessive] it was a lot of hard work initially but slowly I realized that even if I wrote an answer only once I would remember it perfectly.Soon it got to a point where I could read something and memorize it quickly. This required a lot of will power and mental stamina but it grew easier over time. The point I am making is that Will Power is like a muscle which grows stronger every time you use it. Doing MasterCleanse for 20 days was one such way to exercise my Will Power.

Another quote is that if you exert too much of the Will Power then you might end up doing violence to yourself. Just like every marathon runner knows that there are limits so does Will Power. This is where Aristotle’s Golden Rule comes into play – “Moderation is the key to virtue” Sometimes you have to do violence to yourself to find out where your limits are.

Another important factor is how important it is for your really – for me it was important to look thin, important enough that I could motivate myself. This is summarized very well in the quote below.

The ultimate goal for Will Power is where you do an activity not because you will it, but because it’s who you are. It should be such an integral part of your life that you don’t even think twice about doing it. And you start off by willing yourself to do it and take it to the point where you just do it.

For example, When I first started meditating it was a battle in my mind until I got to my seat and now it’s a almost a reflex action to wake up and meditate. It was achieved by a)awareness of the importance of meditation in my life b)exercising my Will Power muscle slowly and steadily and c)by keeping my mat next to the bed.

It is a journey you embark on from Will Power to Just Do It. One Step at a time and from violence to inner peace. And as I stated in one of my previous blogs

You cannot travel the path until you become the path.

Body is a Temple

If you don’t take care of your Body where will you live?

This is one of the quotes on my kitchen boards for this year. There’s a lot of talk and in general awareness about body image, healthy diets – vegan, gluten free, plant based diet foods, lactose free and the list is endless. And my dad was telling me that there are umpteen books on losing weight and they keep on coming but still people have issue losing weight. And we were wondering about why that is? This blog is about two topics really a) body image concept b) losing weight.

Before that, let’s talk about why weight/diet figure so much in our daily lives. Let’s start with a story.

In a remote tribal village – some tribals were shown pictures of our best models. And their response was unanimous – “She will die soon, she is so thin. How can she have babies?” End of Story.

And in our world for most women – they are not thin enough. My husband wonders if there’s something inherently wrong with women’s eyes.

Why such a contrast between these two views? I have a theory and it’s got to do with marketing. Whatever we see around us which is labelled as beautiful includes thin, hour glass figure women. Think about it for a second – the perfume, models on online shopping sites, all the actresses. Everything in media that denotes beautiful is indicated by a very small section of women who are of a completely different skeletal structure. And most of this is subconscious and it has been embedded so deep in our minds that it has become another of those socially accepted mental models. There’s a lot of awareness of it but it will take time to completely eliminate it.

Tribals on the other hand who have never been exposed to our media had a completely opposite view. So, now we are at least aware of one reason why we think of weight/body image in one particular way. And even though I am writing the blog I would be lying if I said that I did not believe in the beauty hoax. I am guilty, especially coming of a 20-day detox on liquid diet.

Let’s explore the topic of diets and why losing weight is so difficult. When I was a kid, we had a guy come to our school for a talk and I remember this from the talk
He told us the story of this great leader who had amazing will power. People asked him what was the reason behind his will power. And he said it was very simple, all he did was shake his head from one side to the other. And others were like really – that is so easy. And then he said, “Well, you have to do this when somebody offers you an ice cream or asks you to play when you have an exam.”

For some reason that story stuck with me – it is about saying no when somebody offers you chocolate/sugar/butter. We all know these items are not good for us but we still eat them. If you have amazing will power then you know what to do. And if not then start with awareness – everytime you eat an item that you know you should not be eating – eat with awareness and very consciously. And there will come a time a when the desire itself will give you up. Until then it’s one day at a time as the famous Bollywood actor Amir Khan says in this youtube video

I will finish off with explaining my Title – In India Temples are a sacred and holy place. You keep them really clean and think only pure thoughts while you are in a temple – so treating your body like temple as the same idea behind it.

Here’s to shaking our heads and temples.

Fear of Failure

1#. An Adult is trying to learn gymnastics and during the back flip practice which she was able to do so well last class – she falls down.

2#. An adult is trying to learn swimming and is having trouble blowing bubbles into water. So she does the bare minimum she can and then leaves the class and does not think about it until next class.

3#. A little baby is trying to walk and she falls umpteen times before she gets the hang of it.

What do you think is the difference between the above three examples or before we get there what’s the one thing that’s common across them? It’s really simple – they are all trying to learn something new.

Now, let’s explore the differences – primarily in mind chatter
1. Gymnastics: Oh, My god! I did this last week and now I suck at it. I can never get this done. Why did I even think that I could do this? I should just quit.
2. Swimming: I am the only adult in the pool. Look at all the other kids – they can swim better than me. My instructor probably thinks I am a fool for even trying. I just want the class to be over so that I can stop thinking about what a failure I am.
3. Baby: Blah! Blah! Blah! ..makes gurgling noises. Basically no mind chatter.

Imagine if the baby also thought like the 1#, 2#. I can never walk.I keep stumbling so many times. All I want is to just go to my toy and I cannot even do that.

Can you imagine any baby ever walking with that kind of mind chatter. Something happens as we grow up. Essentially there is no difference between the three example before – we are learning something new and we will fall, be scared of it but instead of trying to do more of it and be upbeat about it we just berate ourselves.

If we think about logically, if we are trying something new then the best thing to do is to do it as much as you can and fail fast and fail as often as we can.

But there is a fear of failure which is a strong mental model in our society. You cannot fail a class – what will others say? You cannot make a mistake at work – it will count against your performance. This subconsciously makes it way in our heads as we grow up and we imbibe this fear of failure and apply it to ourselves like a freebie.

What does this mean for us then? Well, to begin with do one thing a day that scares you. And once you know what scares you just go for it and do it as often as you can. And tell your mind chatter – it’s ok.

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” Johnny Cash

And Celebrate and be proud of yourself when the following happens.

I Don’t Drink

I was telling a colleague about my Belize trip and I mentioned about the delicious virgin mango-coladas. And his question was “How come you don’t drink?” I thought it would make for a good blog post. Here we go.

Growing up in India in 80s and 90s in a middle class family, I just assumed that Alcohol and Smoking were bad. End of story – no questions asked. And drinking is not a common part of a daily life in India.

Alcohol and me did not cross paths until I started working in Patni Computer Systems. We had a big release. I was the youngest girl on the software team. My team along with tech lead decided to go out and celebrate with drinks. As they packed up early I told them I wanted to join too. My tech lead who probably thought of me as a kid told me, “No, you run home – this will be really late thing.”.

On the bus ride home I decided I was going to go drink as well that day. So I reach home, wait for my dad to come and tell him that I want to drink. And to my dad’s credit he didn’t even blink. He said, “Ok, let’s go out for dinner and we can drink.” My mom was horrified and I remember her telling my dad, “You are going to drink with your kids.” My dad replied, “Well, its good that they are drinking with us and not with strangers.”

We went to Copper Chimney in Bombay [now Mumbai] and my dad ordered a Bacardi Breezer and my brother not be left behind saw his chance and said, “I want one too.” He got one too. I had a sip and it tasted terrible. It wasn’t sweet or fruity. With all the hype around drinking I was expecting it to taste better than my favorite mango drink Frooti or Maaza. I left it as it is. My brother gulped it down though.

My dad told me, “if you don’t like the taste of Bacardi Breezer then there is very little chance that you will like the other alcoholic drinks.” Honestly, that did it for me. When other people talked about alcohol I didn’t care much.

It was in Phoenix that I changed my view – “Anybody who drinks alcohol is bad” to “People who drink alcohol are normal people,” as almost everybody drank in US.

Fast forward to London Business School in UK. If you know anything about UK the drinking culture is very popular there. There is a pub at every street. And MBA graduates are not going to be left behind so they had these pub crawls and they are a big part of the social life in B-school. I joined a couple in the beginning and saw my friends getting drunk to the point where they would end up puking. Now, that did not interest me at all. I didn’t like the smell of beer which was pretty pervasive in London Pubs and that time smoking wasn’t banned in public places as well. I hated the smell of smoke on my clothes and it would never come off. Hence, I made a socially limiting move to not go out drinking – it reduced my social circle and networking a lot but there was no way I was going to drink smelly beer and smell like smoke.

I would still go to a few events and end up drinking coke or lemonade – not bad at all. After a few drinks others are too drunk to even notice what you are drinking.

And now I do Vipassana and one of the precepts is that you do not have intoxicants – so that sealed it for me.

I hope you all enjoyed this little walk down one of my memory lanes.

Belize Trip – final

Trip to Belize was the best break I could have ever asked for. It was a complete switch off from our daily routine which forced us to just chill out. Life on an island is so quiet and calm – all you hear is the sound of the birds and water. Now I know why Island time is different.

I thought I would finish off this mini travel series on Belize trip with some wonderful memories.
Serenity Point: This was the furthest point on our little island called Serenity Point. Adam and I spent many hours here journal-ling/sitting down with our legs in water and watching sunsets. We did yoga here once and the best pose was the back bend as I could see the sea being up and the little huts hanging from the sea.
This was also a key snorkeling starting point – we saw many starfishes/schools of fishes and conch shells.

Hammocks: Reading a Jack Reacher Thriller with a mango-colada in hand while swaying gently in a hammock with the sea breeze. This is my dream come true. We had a lot of fun in these hammocks – naps, watching a hermit crab climb up my jar or just chilling out. I am tempted to get a hammock and put in our bedroom now.

Locals: I love interacting with people – there are some very special moment when you bond with people. We were walking to the beach from our bungalow and we saw the staff cutting fish on the side. I asked them if it was dinner. One of them responded – yes. And he picked up the fishes to show them off. Adam decided he will take a photo. And all of a sudden everybody became very silent and serious – it does happen when you have a camera in front of you. I said – ” you should smile.” And it broke the ice somehow and everybody laughed [I wish I had the laughing photo too ].

Food: I don’t know what I was expecting but the food was just so healthy, home-made and delicious. The desserts were not the best but I am not a big dessert person either or you could always have a mango colada. We had a fish hash for breakfast once which was just out of the world and lobsters/fishes we had for dinner were amazing. Coming from India it’s important for me to have spiced food and the island menu hit the right note.

Stars: Lying in an hammock and watching the stars pop up on sky before the moon rising with the sea breeze and water lapping was another awesome experience. I had only read about such experiences before. I even saw a shooting star. These are moment where you forget who you are and are just lost in the experience – one with nature. One of those moments when everything is so perfect and all thoughts drop you leaving just the one.

Sign-off: I am grateful for the lovely trip to Belize and I know I will have a part of Belize with me always. Thank you for following my Belize Series and Thank you universe.

Link to Day 4

Belize Trip – Day 3

My Dad is a big fan of reading all the self-help materials he can get his hands on. And as a child he encouraged me to do the same. I used to take the clippings from the newspapers/magazines and file them away. I lost the folder but I still remember a few things or quotes that stuck with me. The quote was “Always do something in your life that scares you.” At that point it was just an quote that called out to me and like all such quotes it remained dormant until the student was ready.

Since I took Creativity and Personal Mastery in London Business School, I have been on a spiritual journey and worked through issues in my life. I have been doing yoga and meditation since then and these things help you along your journey with obstacles and some breakthroughs.

Initially any book that I read or any movie that I watched in the spiritual genre my reaction was “Wow, that’s so cool.” And then it was about talking about how it applied to my life and how it applied to others and sharing the experience. And then at some point without even internalizing it all I had internalized most of it. And now I am not drawn to movies or books in the same way as I GET them now.

Similarly, trials and tribulations in my life and the life of others do not interest me in the same fashion as they did before. I am beginning to realize that this is life, this is human predicament. If it’s not this issue and then it’s another issue. I am sure all this sounds jaded, right? And I would agree with you that I am jaded.

And this is where the quote about doing something scary in your life makes sense to me and called out to me. About two months ago I knew I had to join swimming classes – there’s no major reasoning behind it just had to do it. Now, as a kid growing up in India you are not encouraged to spend time on activities other than studying which is what I did diligently. However, my brother who for some reason was going to swimming classes decided he was not going to the classes and locked himself up in the toilet when the time came for him to go. My parents being the middle-class parents in India decided not to waste the money and got me going instead.

I was overjoyed and honestly don’t recall much of the classes except that there were days when I was scared to let go off the railing until my dad threatened to stop taking me to the classes. And I swam even if it meant with my head above the water. And after that I never got into swimming pool for another ten years maybe.

So, I had taken just three swimming lessons before coming to Belize. And I admit openly that I am scared of the water, well more so of the water getting into my nose. I made progress in the last three classes I had and I am slowly beginning to realize that it’s all about practice and telling your subconscious that it’s ok.

Right, so this is where I was when we landed in Belize. And as you know already we are on an island and if I didn’t get into water there was no point. So I was mentally prepared to get into water and have been doing so diligently every day. I can even admit to actually relaxing and enjoying a few moments of them. I learnt how to float on my back at least until water splashes over my face and I end up drinking salt water. My body probably contains more salt water than the Caribbean sea at this point.

Yesterday we decided to try snorkel – and until we actually tried it I was scared – you are literally breathing inside water. We tried it in shallow water first, I held Adam’s hand and snorkeled around with him. Then we actually snorkeled our way to a neighboring island. It is really cool to see under the water – see and touch starfish, see the coral, sponge or seaweed swaying while the sunlight plays with them. Even though I made it, I was still scared that something might happen. But, I am keeping at it and someday it won’t be a big deal. As somebody said – most battles are fought within our mind and I totally agree.

While we were walking to dinner there were some Bocce balls lying around and Adam asked if I wanted to play. And my instant response was – “No, I am tired of doing things that I do not know how to do.”

Link to Day 2